Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Get Real

We live in a unique time in society. A time that provides us with new opportunities. With technological advancements like social networking sites and lightning fast digital devices we can communicate faster, more clearly and more efficiently. We are presented with the opportunity to express ourselves in creative ways. The challenge that comes along with these advancements is how to manage them with integrity. I believe most of these technological advances to be good so long as we use our heads about their application to our lives. But with all of this technological gain I sometimes I worry what we might be losing. For as we grow smarter, bigger and faster I fear we're losing a bit of something. A bit of... reality.

Take photo editing for example. As we're able to enhance our digital images with fancy effects, color filters and flowery frames, might we also be losing a bit of natural beauty? Beauty that our Creator made? All of this pondering in my head was recently prompted by a website called Picnik. It's a photo editing website, perhaps you've heard of it. And don't get me wrong-I love me some special photo effects on occasion. The funky color filters, vintage effects and other goodies have a way of making photos quite poignant and evocative. But I think we need to be vigilant about just what it is we're trying to achieve when editing. Are we trying to showcase the natural beauty we've already captured or instead, trying to create something else entirely--something false? For along with the neat effects are some features that I question. Tooth whitening. Thinning. Wrinkle Remover. Hair Highlighting. To what aim do these photo effects exist? I don't quite know the answer, but I certainly am left with some unsettling questions.

I'm not here to judge or criticize. That is not my purpose at all in writing this. I am not God and I certainly don't have all the answers regarding how we are to navigate our way through new technology. But I just wanted to encourage you to think critically about the messages your images can send. I encourage you to pray about what is right for you. Because, while it might seem inconsequential for one to blur away the odd wrinkle and brighten those coffee-stained teeth, I think there is real potential for harm when we begin to edit away what is real. I fear we're crossing a line once we begin to snip a bit of this and trim away a bit of that to look "just right." It's as if we're giving ourselves virtual plastic surgery--making ourselves the way WE want to appear rather than the way God made us to be. While perhaps we can make ourselves look it even us anymore? And what is so bad about a few crows feet and a thicker jawline that we must crop and hide and digitize it all away? And who are we trying to impress?

If we truly believe that we are precious in His sight just as we are, then what are we saying to our Creator when we undo how He has made us? It's as if we're saying, "You made me this way, but no thanks. I'm just going to go ahead and chase my own mirage instead." And that can cross into some dangerous territory. In a slippery slope of perfection-seeking we are reinforcing society's notion that we must look perfectly symmetrical, perfectly thin, perfectly sexy, perfectly...artificial.

For arguments sake, I edited 2 pictures of my daughter using Picnik and Photoshop. I chose her image for 2 reasons . First, I wanted to illustrate natural beauty and what better subject than a child? And second, I wanted to show that we have in our grasp the ability to send very powerful messages to our children as their parents and role models. I originally intended to post both pictures to illustrate my point of real vs. artificial beauty. But an interesting thing happened as I began to edit Megan. It felt just so plain wrong. So wrong in fact, that I don't even want to put that fake picture of Megan up here. So instead I just threw the whole thing away. I was actually surprised by how badly I felt, considering I was only doing it in the first place so I could use the picture for this post. And then it hit me: I think we all on some level recognize the need to preserve natural beauty in children. But why do we have no qualms about editing adults in order to make them fit the mold of artificial perfection? What happens in the process of becoming adults where we no longer feel the need to defend and preserve our natural beauty and celebrate our flaws? Can we fight to reclaim that lost innocence?

And then I started thinking about family photos in other ways. I started thinking about all of the "duds" we take, while trying to get that "perfect" shot. You know what I mean--the ones where people aren't looking at the camera, someone is blinking, the kids are running away. But what a story those duds tell! They are SO real! They make me smile. They are real family moments-frowns, pouts, wriggles, squiggles, scrunchy faces, squints and all. What beauty is there. And so I want to share some of our family's "duds" we've collected over the years:

I remember this hot sunny windy day at the beach last summer. The sand was blowing in our faces and Megan was writhing in my arms. How wonderfully real!

If this picture had been more "perfect" then it wouldn't have captured Adam's *most awesome* Elvis sneer! I LOVE that face!

This is just a random candid that at first glance is nothing special. The boys are hot, sweaty and tired. Luke has bags under his eyes large enough to fit a cart's worth of groceries. I'm not even looking at the camera. My sister's face is cut in half lol! But this moment was priceless. My sister had just given birth to twins. I was visiting my first-ever niece and God-daughter. The boys had just gotten brand-new cousins! Two new lives to celebrate!

This picture cracks me up because no one is even looking near the direction of the camera! But doesn't it just make you wonder what it is they're looking at? A bird perhaps? A scampering squirrel? A babbling brook? I don't know, but in its own unique REAL way it's capturing a precious moment between father and sons.

What can I even say about this one?! I mean, Megan is about to sneeze, someone's foot is in the shot, its all safety gates, littered toys and closed eyes! But its real!

What I love about this one is Adam's big brother pride shining through along with the "Uh-oh someone go rescue Megan--QUICK!" moment. Such a hilarious shot!

And this one just takes the cake for me. Luke wanted my glass in a big bad way, the sun was in my face, the wind was whipping sand everywhere, but I just love it. Look at that adorably chubby baby arm. And those gorgeous waves crashing in the background. It's awesome in its imperfectly real way.

So anyway, I just wanted to provide a few examples of how beautiful life can be unedited. Real moments just as God created them. Together let's celebrate the imperfect, the messy, the smudged, the flawed, the crooked. They're you, they're me, they're all of us on this beautifully flawed planet of unique individuals. Let's preserve our individuality. Let's rejoice in it. Let's get real.



  1. This is an amazing post. All to often in life we edit. We edit looks, talk everything. I love that you let the "real" be. I have had many conversations with my almost 11 year old daughter that the way women look in magazines are not the way real women look. Sometimes the best pictures are the ones we aren't expecting. Beautiful writing and awesome pictures. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I love the photos. I agree that it is so easy to edit out the things we don't want to see, but each moment has it's own beauty if we will simply open our eyes to it.

  3. Thanks so much for your comments, ladies. It means so much to me to know you feel the same way. I just think there's too much focus on "image"-to the extent that it cheapens reality. How can the flawed ever have its day in the sun when it never even gets a chance to be brought to light? I'm so encouraged to know there are others who wish to preserve and cherish real beauty.

  4. Thanks for being "real" and encouraging the rest of us to do the same. The pressure to live something that isn't real is just too much!! Love the pictures and love the post. Thanks!

  5. Erin, when I read your profile description, I thought, oh my, she just wrote about ME! :) We have a lot of similarities! And I LOVE this post! Very, very cool how you captured some of the most real moments of your life and glorified them through your comments. And I mean glorified in a good way. This is a really great point you bring up. Wow. Thanks for the inspiration today!

  6. @Roxane B. Salonen

    Roxane, it's great to "meet" you! That's so neat that we have so much in common! Thanks so much for your encouragement!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...